SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in U.S. v. Rahimi

November 10, 2023

The path of the next big national gun rights case began today with the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in the case of U.S. v. Rahimi.  In a special edition of CRPA TV recorded immediately after the oral arguments concluded, CRPA President & General Counsel Chuck Michel shared his observations on the day’s proceedingsWATCH NOW!

At issue in the case is a Texas law prohibiting gun ownership for those who are the subject of domestic violence restraining orders.  How the Court (and subsequently lower courts) view such class-based restrictions is also something closely watched in this case.

Overlaying all of this, as we’ve been discussing for weeks now, is the larger question of how Bruen should be applied.  “History and tradition” can be hard to define, especially if you don’t want any limits placed on your ability to restrict firearm access.  And that’s exactly what it sounded like the government’s solicitor wanted today.

“It is quite clear from the arguments made today, that the gun control agenda is to acknowledge that Bruen calls for historical analogs, but to have the search for those analogs be held to so minimal a standard that any of today’s restrictions can be said to be legitimate,” observed Michel. “That, in essence, is a return to the pre-Bruen days of governments not having to demonstrate any justification for impacting a fundamental right.”

In the 90+ minutes of argumentation and questioning, the Justices explored the boundaries of each side’s argument, with a good deal of attention paid to where the government would draw the line on when a blanket, class-based restriction would be justified.  Would it be only those considered “dangerous”?  No, that was not broad enough.  The concept of being a “responsible” person was advanced on several occasions, though no real definition was offered (at least in the oral arguments today).

Certainly, today’s oral arguments are far from definitive in terms of predicting how the Court may rule.  Mountains of briefs have been submitted in the case, and the Justices have much to consider as they grapple with all the potential impacts of their decision.

What seems likely, however, is that the way the Justices apply Bruen in this case will have significant ramifications for lower courts.  Will it be to provide clarity?  Or will we be back to SCOTUS in every case that walks the line (as we know gun control advocates like to do)?  Time will tell…and we have to be ready!